A San Juan Capistrano family medicine doctor’s license to practice in California was placed on probation due to back-to-back convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol, according to the state medical board.
Dr. Jeffrey Philip Safer accepted the Medical Board of California discipline and facts of his case based on his Oct. 2 signature on a state document. The probation order became effective on Nov. 17, according to the board.
On Feb. 28, 2015, Safer’s wife called Orange County sheriff’s dispatch to report her husband was “acting bizarre” while driving her car and refused to comply with her demands from the passenger seat that he pull over. He may have been under the influence of something, she told the dispatcher, who was later informed he had dropped her off on Serenity Lane in Laguna Niguel and drove off south on Golden Lantern.
When a deputy arrived, the wife said she and Safer had been married for 39 years and she had recently learned he had a history with alcohol. He seemed depressed that day he was driving her to an Aliso Viejo hardware store. When she noticed he was having a difficult time staying in his lane, she complained about his driving. He replied that she should drive instead, but after he pulled over and she got out of the car to take over the wheel, he sped off.
The deputy tried to call Safer on his cell phone, but he did not answer. Because the wife mentioned he was probably driving home, another deputy was sent there to make sure the doctor was safe. But shortly after that call went out, Safer turned his wife’s car onto Golden Lantern, where she and the responding deputy were still standing. She identified the driver as her husband to the deputy.
After the car stopped, the deputy walked over and asked Safer how he was doing, and he replied, “I’m doing fine.” The deputy mentioned how his wife had reported Safer may be on something, but he responded, “No, I’m not under the influence of anything. I’m fine.”
However, the deputy says a strong odor of alcohol could be smelled on Safer’s breath. The physician was told he was not under arrest but was being detained. That would change after further evaluation determined “his eyes were bloodshot, watery and droopy,” he did not perform well during field sobriety tests, and he blew 0.154 percent and 0.164 percent blood alcohol content, according to medical board documents. Safer was then arrested for suspected driving under the influence. He went on to plead guilty and be sentenced to 150 days in jail, three years probation and he had to pay fees, fines and complete an 18-month sobriety program.
The evening of April 11, 2015, Safer was seen by a different deputy on patrol driving his 2008 Infiniti EX35 over a grass median at the Strands Beach parking lot in Dana Point. When the deputy approached the driver, she noticed he had an “unsteady gait, slurred speech, strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his breath and bloodshot/watery eyes,” according to medical board documents.
Safer told a second responding deputy that he had not been drinking and was not on medication, but when asked to stand on one leg he replied, “I can’t do this,” he almost fell over during the walk and turn test and he blew .19 percent and .20 percent in his breath tests, state records show. He was arrested, later pleaded guilty and received the same jail and probation time—to be served concurrently with the sentence from the first DUI conviction—and he had to pay more fees, fines and months spent in the sobriety program.
The two DUI cases resulted in these causes for discipline from the medical board: general unprofessional conduct; conviction of a crime substantially related to qualifications, functions or duties of a physician or surgeon; and use of alcoholic beverages to the extent or in a manner as to be dangerous to respondent, another person or the public.
During probation, Safer must: abstain from alcohol; complete an ethics course; refrain from the solo practice of medicine; have a licensed physician or surgeon with experience in evaluating members of the profession with substance abuse disorders send progress reports to the board; provide the board with names and contact information for all employees and supervisors; undergo blood tests; attend substance abuse support group meetings; have his practice monitored by a third party—at his expense—and have updates sent by the approved monitor to the board; inform hospitals and clinics where he has privileges of his probationary status; refrain from overseeing nurses or physician assistants; and obey all laws.
A major violation of a probation condition could lead to an immediate cease-practice order, according to the board.